A gun chronograph is an instrument used to measure the velocity of a projectile fired by a gun.
An early chronograph that measures velocity directly was built in 1804 by Grobert, a colonel in the French Army. This used a rapidly rotating axle with two disks mounted on it about 13 feet apart. The bullet was fired parallel to the axle, and the angular displacement of the holes in the two disks, together with the rotational speed of the axle, yielded the bullet velocity.
The modern chronograph consists of two sensing areas called chronograph screens, which contain optical sensors that detect the passage of the bullet. The bullet is fired so it passes through both screens, and the time it takes the bullet to travel the distance between the screens is measured electronically.
The first electronic ballistic chronograph was invented by Kiryako ("Jerry") Arvanetakis in the 1950s. As consulting engineer under contract by NACA (later NASA), he was asked to find a way to accurately measure the velocity of various projectiles fired at hyper-velocities into a variety of engineered materials in anticipation of manned space flight. His first design was an open rectangular frame of square aluminum tubing with a screen of fine copper wire at both ends. Breaking the first wire started charging a capacitor, breaking the second wire stopped it. Measuring the accumulated voltage and knowing the rate of charge the elapsed time could be accurately calculated.